It does not contradict the earlier remark about Kertész’s not wishing to be categorised as a “Holocaust” writer that not one of his works, including those that are much more concerned with communist totalitarian regimes, lacks at least one specific reference to Hitler’s reign of terror. The framing novel of The Failure, for instance, refers to a book Köves has published about his camp experiences (the title is not given but obviously Fatelessness is meant), and he directly quotes from several other books, including a passage about Ilsa Koch, the “Bitch of Buchenwald”, taken from Jorge Semprun’s The Long Voyage. By way of contrast, the allusion in The Union Jack is almost unnoticeable: Ernö Szép is immortalised as “a tiny old chap […] swept along the icy streets like a speck of dust by the wind of disaster, drifting from one coffee-house to the next […] his hat […] a so-called ‘Eden’ hat, of a shade that had evidently once been what was called ‘dove grey'”, who introduces himself with the devastating phrase, “I was Ernö Szép.” Most non-Hungarian readers will not be aware that Szép (1884-1953) was a genuinely popular Hungarian poet, writer and journalist of Jewish origin, among whose novels was Adam’s Apple (1935), mentioned by the nameless narrator of The Union Jack. More significantly, however, he wrote a remarkably sardonic memoir of his travails in a forced-labour battalion, published in 1945 and translated by John Bátki under the title The Smell of Humans.[4]

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